West Nipissing residents have some new artwork to enjoy when they stroll downtown Sturgeon Falls, thanks to the talents of Kim Peterson and Veronique Rachel. The large pieces can be viewed along the side of Nipissing Food in Bins, at 196 King Street.
It’s all a part of an ever-growing display of public art in the downtown, a passion project propelled by the Sturgeon Falls Beautification Group. Gayle Primeau founded that group, and in 2017, the first mural was unveiled, with many more to follow.
During this time, “I have met and worked with a multitude of talented and wonderful artists and generous donors,” Primeau mentioned on the organization’s Facebook page. “I have also been surrounded by a wonderful team of volunteers who continue to support and encourage all of our beautification projects.”
It’s not all about murals, as the Beautification Group can often be seen cleaning the streets downtown, picking up around the buildings, and installing new planter boxes to enhance the town’s aesthetics. “My goal was to beautify our downtown, to attract tourists and create an event in our downtown,” she said. Primeau also organizes the downtown’s weekend market and is currently working with municipal council to find a permanent home for the ‘Marina’ mermaid sculpture.
She has a lot on the go in the realm of beautification, and when she reached out to Kim Peterson and Veronique Rachel to create new works for the downtown, both were eager to take part. Primeau took care of the logistics—a business to volunteer wall space, and a place for the two to create the pieces—and Peterson and Rachel focused on creating a vision for the pieces.
“It was such a pleasure to brainstorm ideas and share the painting space with Kim for this project,” Rachel said. “She is such an intuitive and confident person, which inspires me a lot.” Peterson felt the same about Rachel, noting both share similar energy, “so I knew we would really work well collaboratively.”
And so began the creative process. Peterson painted the large centre piece—it’s 8 feet by 8 feet—and Rachel decided on four works that would accent the centre image. “For my contribution to the larger mural in collaboration with Kim, I wanted to try and illustrate the four fundamental elements and their associated aspect of life,” Rachel explained.
“One of my favourite quotes and concepts is ‘as above so below, as within so without,’” Rachel said, “which can mean a lot of different things, but is essentially the idea that the outer world is mirrored and reflected internally in our human experience and vice versa.”
“Water, air, fire, and earth” are all represented in Rachel’s work, Peterson emphasized, a perfect compliment to her own painting depicting a large tree of life, radiating light upon the beholder. This image came to Peterson while meditating and “I took that as a symbol and decided to work with the tree concept and see what came through.”
The process was very intuitive for both artists as they worked on their pieces. Peterson summed it up quite succinctly: “I don’t question, I just do.” When inspiration visits, she’s always ready to host, and it all began with that image of the tree. For Peterson, the tree represents balance, and the concentric circles enveloping the tree are light rays, which “all carry frequencies and energy” to the viewer.
Her painting is “a reminder for people to ignite within them their own creativity and their passion,” Peterson said, “because life can kill that fire,” and the work reminds all “that you have an inner fire in you that you’ve got to keep stoking.”
“We’re all creators,” she emphasized. Peterson titled the work “I Am,” because “I am, that’s the truth of who you are, there is nothing else. I am, that’s enough.”
This state of essential being also carries into Rachel’s works. Along with representing the four elements, “I also wanted to incorporate the corresponding “inner” process of being human. We have our body, our mind, our emotions and a connection to spirit, or consciousness. The mystery of being alive.”
She was conscious to represent the “being” of each piece and was sure to include symbols of duality—such as night and day—to represent human qualities of introversion and extroversion. Rachel admits “it was challenging to try and depict such ephemeral ideas, but I tried my best and hope that it translates” for the viewer.
“At the very least, I hope it brings a smile to the passerby,” she said, noting that this enjoyment is one of many reasons why she loves murals and public art. “It allows people to stop for a moment on their busy errands and just take a breath and admire something beautiful.”
“Even just a glance while you drive by fills your day with just a little bit of colour and maybe affects your mood on a subtle level,” she said. Rachel grew up in Sturgeon Falls, but as of late, has been living in Australia, and was happy to have the chance to participate in this project before she left.
“What Gayle has spearheaded in our little town, is not only exciting and beautiful for everyone, but I hope inspiring for the young people and students to envision themselves creating art and that it is indeed a realistic pursuit,” she said.
To see more from Veronique Rachel, follow her Instagram page at @verocoya or visit her website at verocoya.com. Kim Peterson’s work can be seen on her Instagram page @thehealinghartwithkim or on her website thehealinghart.com.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.